(written from a Production point of view)
The Federation's ultimate war machine – captured by terrorists.
- From the book jacket
- Star Empire is the Federation's most powerful new weapon – a dreadnought, first in a class of super-starships – capable of outgunning a dozen Klingon cruisers, or subduing a galaxy.
- On the eve of her maiden voyage, Star Empire is stolen by terrorists who demand a rendezvous with the Starship Enterprise – and with Lieutenant Piper, stationed aboard James Kirk's ship on her first training cruise. Now Piper must discover why her friends from Starfleet are among the terrorists... and why they insist the ship was stolen not to attack the Federation – but to save it!
A prototype starship is stolen by a conspiracy of Starfleet officers who are old friends of a young new lieutenant named Piper, who was recently posted to the Enterprise. An admiral insists on taking his personal flagship and accompanying the Enterprise to apprehend the stolen starship, where it turns out that the new starship was stolen not to start a war, but to prevent one. The crew of the Enterprise and the hijackers must work together to foil a plot by the admiral to use this new ship to begin a military coup of the Federation.
The story is told from the point of view of a young Ms. Piper, a cadet at Starfleet Academy, undergoing her Kobayashi Maru examination. Upon graduation, she is requested by James T. Kirk for posting as a lieutenant to the USS Enterprise. Also posted on board, a couple of weeks prior, is a former friend of hers: a Vulcan named Sarda. The USS Star Empire, the prototype of the new dreadnought starships, is stolen by a group of rogue officers lead by Commander Paul Burch, former assistant to Admiral Rittenhouse, who had commissioned the dreadnought and had her built in secret. Kirk requested Lieutenant Piper to be assigned to the Enterprise, as they had already received a communique from the terrorists detailing a time and location for a meeting, and that a further message would require Piper's biocode to open. Lieutenant Piper is unaware of how she fits into any of this.
At the requested meeting place and time, Piper is summoned to the bridge to decode the transmission. Much to her surprise, one of the terrorists turns out to be Brian Sylania, her former lover whom she departed with just prior to accepting her assignment on board the Enterprise. The terrorists on board request a party consisting of no more than three members, consisting of Piper, at least one Vulcan, and one other member. Kirk denies the request and has Piper, while still in visible contact with the terrorists, arrested for conspiracy, as an act to prompt more action from them. After the transmission is cut, Kirk orders her confined to her quarters, under computer guard.
Determined to find out what Sylania's involvement is in all of this, and figuring Kirk was smart enough to not only to realize what she would try, but was actually expecting it, she bypasses the computer guard on her room, and escapes to a seldom-used transporter room. While programming a new destination, she is surprised by Sarda, her former Vulcan friend. When asked how he knew what she was doing, he states that logic dictated this is what she would do. In a surprising move, given their rocky past, he offers her help in the form of a parka, a communicator, a phaser, and himself. They decide to take an Arco-class sled instead, and barely make it out before the shuttlebay doors close them in.
While en route to the USS Star Empire, they are stopped by Vice Admiral Vaughn Rittenhouse's personal flagship, the Saladin-class destroyer Pompeii. They are stopped by the ship's tractor beam and escorted by security to meet the vice admiral. Rittenhouse apologizes about their abrupt tractoring, but explains that no contact must be allowed between anyone and the Star Empire yet. While present, Piper and Sarda witness a communication with Kirk, in which Rittenhouse tries to dismiss Kirk from the area, an order that Kirk denies, as the terrorists had specifically requested Kirk and the Enterprise.
Becoming suspicious of the vice admiral, Piper uses their time alone after the transmission to probe the computer for more information on the vice admiral's career. She finds out that he has many powerful connections and sits in most of the most powerful branches of Starfleet, and has apparently gotten several captains their ships – the same captains and the same ships that are now conveniently headed their way. After reviewing all the information from the computer, from the feelings she has picked up, and from her knowledge of the past, she realizes that Rittenhouse had the dreadnought built not as a peacekeeping ship, but as a ship to subjugate the galaxy under his will, using the banner of the "greater good." He intends to lead a military coup against the Federation with an entire line of dreadnoughts, and to subjugate every species that resists, including the Klingons and the Romulans.
Attempting to contact Captain Kirk to warn him about the situation, Piper and Sarda are interrupted by Rittenhouse, who had been listening in on the entire conversation. Piper and Sarda confront Rittenhouse about his plan, which he openly admits. In his eyes, the galaxy would be a better place under one rule: his rule. He has both of them thrown into the brig.
After escaping the brig, Sarda contacts two of their friends on board the Enterprise, who covertly beam to their location. Sarda had asked them to be ready to do such before he left, unknown to Piper. Escaping the Pompeii, Piper and her friends manage to get on board the Star Empire and are told what they suspected already: the theft of the dreadnought was not to start a war, but to prevent one.
Captain Kirk, having already figured out Rittenhouse's motives, helps to defend the Star Empire from the now-attacking four ships, comprised of the Pompeii and the three other ships en route earlier. Realizing his plan is now utterly gone, Rittenhouse sets on at least killing those on board the Star Empire. The Enterprise and Star Empire work together to defeat the Pompeii. After returning to Earth, Kirk tells Piper that he will recommend the decommissioning and scrapping of the dreadnought.
- This is Diane Carey's first Star Trek novel published by Pocket Books.
- Many of Carey's original characters and concepts were reused in her later Trek novels, beginning with the sequel Battlestations!. When Pocket Books reissued Dreadnought! and Battlestations! in 1999, they made them part of a series called Fortunes of War.
- Author Diane Carey made extensive use of the Star Fleet Technical Manual when writing this novel. Besides the use of the titular three-nacelled Dreadnought-type ship, the organization of the Federation and Starfleet infrastructure revealed to Piper by the library computer is identical to the layout written by Franz Joseph in that manual. She also mentions several Federation starships and starship classes from that work, such as the Saladin-class of destroyer. Even major characters Piper, "Scanner" Sandage, Vaughan Rittenhouse, Sukaru Tutakai, and Sarda were named for Ptolemy-class transport/tugs USS Piper, USS Sandage, USS Rittenhouse, and the Constitution-variant subclass vessels USS Tutakai and (probably) USS Sardar. Carey also misspells Potemkin as Potempkin, as Franz Joseph did in the earlier manual.
- The illustrations of the Arco and Tycho "sleds" (small shuttlepod/fighters) were designed by Brian Thomas and illustrated by C. Paul. Interior art makes this book a rarity; no other Pocket Books Star Trek novels to date, other than Battlestations! and the young adult series (such as Star Trek: The Next Generation - Starfleet Academy), have featured interior artwork.
- Cover painter Boris Vallejo reputedly had Diane Carey and collaborator Greg Brodeur pose for the likenesses of Piper and Sarda.
- Though the dreadnought's configuration was derived from the aforementioned Technical Manual, its design was quite different. Vallejo renders the ship with detailing similar to the later Excelsior-class starships.
- Sequels for this series were discussed in the October 1990 issue of Starlog magazine (#159) when Carey was interviewed by Wanda J. Hall. A sequel called By Logic Alone would star Piper, and a follow-on two-parter focused on Kirk, but featuring Piper, would be called The Federation Mutiny. The novels were apparently never produced.
- The events of this novel, of a Starfleet vice admiral trying to start a military coup of the Federation, are similar to a later DS9 storyline in "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost".
- The character of Piper is regarded among many fans as a "Mary Sue".
- In Pocket TOS: The Lost Years, this story is referenced as Admiral Nogura describes the general Federation public's wariness of a protective Starfleet torn apart by a corruption scandal. Nogura offers it as one of his main reasons for promoting Kirk to rear admiral. He reasons a famous and respected starship captain promoted to the admiralty to replace Rittenhouse will help restore public confidence in Starfleet.
- Star Empire's unique third nacelle was mounted to its primary, not engineering, hull – above the saucer's interconnecting dorsal. The extra nacelle allowed the vessel to go twice as fast as Enterprise but only for a limited period of time.
- The primary hull, rather than being traditionally circular, was hexagonal, oriented point-forward.
- The dreadnought was triple-shielded, and two or three times larger than Enterprise. This made it about 1.5 million tons lighter than the later Galaxy-class. Its armament included six photon torpedo banks, five phaser banks of two emitters each, and a number of undisclosed cutting-edge weapons systems.
- Canon characters listed below are linked to the main article about them. Non-canon characters are not linked, but those that recurred, appearing or being mentioned in more than one story, are defined further in Pocket TOS characters.
Regular and recurring
- Vaughn Rittenhouse
- Vice Admiral
- Merete AndrusTaurus
- Judd "Scanner" Sandage
- Paul Burch
- Leonard McCoy
- Montgomery Scott
- Hikaru Sulu
- Adeb ben Abdullah
- Ran Armstrong
- Admiral, former captain of the USS Constellation. By 2270 he was the Starfleet representative to the UFP Congress.
- Samuel Boma
- a former USS Enterprise officer, now a civilian scientist critical to the dreadnought program.
- Elizabeth Connolly
- Chirita Dur Tahr
- Irene Fogel-Malone
- Stephen Leedson
- Captain of USS Hornet.
- Roy Nash
- Captain of USS Lincoln given temporary promotion to commodore by Rittenhouse.
- Lu Sing Quaid
- Commander, chairman of the Starship Officer Selection Committee and also a member of the Logistical Support Committee at Starfleet Command.
- Niditoricumtu Ro
- Chief adjutant.
- Nigel Swenson
- Federation underscretary for the interior.
- Sukaru Tutakai
- Captain of USS Potemkin.
- Susan Yin
- Commander, a first officer of one of the ships that arrived to support Rittenhouse's coup.
- Type of attack sled.
- CMU on the USS Enterprise.
- Grey Matter
- CMU on the Enterprise.
- Honey Bun
- USS Hornet
- Captain Leedson.
- USS Liberty
- Starship simulated in Piper's Kobayashi Maru test.
- USS Lincoln
- Captain Nash.
- USS Magellan
- A Galaxy-class ship, commanded by Captain Flynn.
- Textile freighter decimated by space pirates.
- Tycho-class one-man light interceptor fighter.
- USS Pompeii (NCC-424)
- Saladin-class MT-1 destroyer destroyed by Rittenhouse's orders.
- USS Potemkin
- Captain Tutakai.
- Rock Slide
- Arco sled.
- Arco sled.
- USS Star Empire (MKC-2331)
- Mk-X class I Federation dreadnought.
- Stocking Cap
- Arco sled.
- Type of interceptor fighter.
- Wooden Shoe
- Arco sled commandeered by Lieutenant Piper.
- Zipper Fly
- Arco sled.
- Stardate 7881.2 (2253)
- A roster of Vulcan training and education techniques is supplied to the Federation by emissaries from Earth: By 2270 this is still the last information supplied on the topic.
- Seventeen years before the novel.
- Stardate 8180.2 (2266)
- Piper enters Starfleet Academy.
- Vice Admiral Rittenhouse orders the construction to begin on Star Empire.
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